New Clinical Hospital opens its doors.
Until less than a year ago, many illnesses of medium or high complexity could not be treated 100% in Guanacaste. The options were: wait months for treatment at the Costa Rican Social Security hospitals or travel to the metropolitan area to get treatment at a private hospital.
Whether due to time constraints, to not being insured by the Social Security (popularly known as the “Caja”) or in search of better quality care, many opted for traveling to San José, thus incrementing the overall cost of the treatment by adding a place to stay, transportation and eating in the capital- and not just for the patient but also for their companions.
Today, thanks to the opening of new hospitals and smaller clinics in the area, and in particular with the inauguration of the full service San Rafael Archangel Clinical Hospital, this problem is now history.
The residents of Guanacaste now have at their disposal this large private hospital, at accessible prices and capable of handling over 90% of the medical needs that anyone can have, from simple preventive care to surgeries of medium or high complexity.
With an investment that exceeds 5 million dollars, health in Guanacaste has not only taken a quantitative jump but also made a significant advance in quality care. San Rafael has allocated almost $1 million US dollars to bring to this region cutting edge medical technologies- some of which are not even available yet in the hospitals of the central valley.
With its new modern 4 story building and 20.000 sq.ft. of construction which are in addition to the 2 previously existing buildings, the Clinical Hospital San Rafael Archangel became the largest private hospital outside of the metropolitan area, with medical services and facilities of high quality that include 35 types of specialties, 13 hospital rooms, 10 medical consulting offices, two modern operating rooms, observation rooms, maternity delivery rooms, trauma center, intensive care department, an ultra modern clinical laboratory and something very relevant which it had missing in the area: A private center with Emergency Services 24/7.
Since it opening in February 2013, the Clinical Hospital San Rafael Archangel has been seeing around 6,000 patients a month. In addition to improving the access to healthcare to those who can access private medicine, it also has indirectly benefited those who receive their care from the public health system as it has contributed to alleviating somewhat the saturated hospitals run by the Social Security in Liberia and Nicoya where the waiting time for tests and surgeries used to be months and in some cases, even years.
Through alliances with the CAJA, INS (National Insurance Institute), municipalities, dozens of cooperatives and large businesses in the area, as well as an extensive list of international insurance companies, San Rafael has come to be a solution for the health of the province, a generator of over 100 jobs and also a rotund business success for all its business allies, its associate doctors and also for the financiers and stockholders that placed their trust on this project.
But those who know the moving force behind this development, Gynecologist Walbin Sanchez, also knows that along with his business vision he is also a human being with a social conscience. They have not been surprised to see San Rafael Archangel Hospital promoting preventive medicine campaigns, pro-health education in elementary and secondary schools and in the universities, sponsoring early diagnosis campaigns for illnesses and establishing a sensible program of free medical attention for low income people with complex health issues.
For all these reasons, barely a few months since its opening, this Clinical Hospital has earned the affection of the people and has positioned itself in a definitive manner as the hospital for the people of Guanacaste despite also having become the answer for people from other nearby regions such as the area of Upala, Puntarenas and even for people living in Southern Nicaragua.
List of specialties and services:
Specialties available: Gynecology, pediatrics, geriatrics, cardiology, general practice, family medicine, nutrition, physiotherapy and aesthetics, audiology, general surgery, urology, otolaryngology, dentistry, anesthesiologist, orthopedics, peripheral vascular, aesthetic and reconstructive surgery, pediatric surgery, neurosurgery, ophthalmologist, obstetrics and gynecology, pharmacology, medical emergencies and anesthesiologist, among others.
Services: Included in the modern technologies and services they have a very modern clinical laboratory, X rays, mammograms, bone density scans, electromyography, electroencephalogram videos, ultrasounds, echocardiograms, stress tests, pathology services, audiology cabins and cutting edge CAT scans.
International insurances accepted at HCSRA:
United Health Care
Walbin Sanchez…A very unusual doctor
An interview with the medical entrepreneur
Walbin Sánchez is an unusual professional. An accomplished medical specialist who speaks four languages and has lived and practiced medicine in several countries, the 45-year-old Heredia native has a vision for improving access to affordable private health care in Liberia, capital of northwestern Guanacaste province.
In 2006, Sánchez, who worked as a doctor in the Social Security System in Liberia, joined partners in opening the San Rafael Arcángel Medical Center, a modest yet ambitious clinic. His dream was to create a private health care facility for Guanacastecos of all income-levels.
Demand for services led to a second-phase expansion of the clinic in 2008, and today, the clinic employs 26 people and provides service to almost 4,000 patients a month. To help meet growing health care needs in the area, a modern hospital was built, and Sánchez says the $5 million project –finished in a February 2013 –is helping significantly improve private health care coverage in the heart of Liberia.
We spoke with Sánchez about his vision for medical coverage in Guanacaste. Excerpts follow:
The combination of doctor and businessman isn’t something encountered every day. What gave you the entrepreneurial bug?
WS:I think it’s something that comes from my family.
My father, in spite of his humble background as a farmer, was always an entrepreneur. That’s how he was able to raise nine kids, and thanks to his example, life has been good to all of his children.
He taught us that a good business isn’t built on a model where one person profits by taking something away from another, but rather by creating a situation where everyone involved benefits through long-term relationships. …Another thing that has helped is having lived in various diverse countries.
I’ve learned socialized health care models in Russia, Spain, the Ukraine and Switzerland, market-based models like the United States, and mixed models. I think that gives me a competitive advantage as a doctor and entrepreneur. Finally, a key to success also was INCAE Business School, one of the best business schools in Latin America.
In the field of medicine, what has been your formula for success?
Our concept has always been to provide comprehensive attention and integrated services, with everything in one place. Instead of offering only examinations and writing prescriptions, we wanted to have laboratories, pharmacies and other key services that patients need, and people appreciate that.
With the new hospital, we are closing the full circle, by providing what was missing: surgeries and outpatient procedures.
I’m a surgeon, and today San Rafael has 13 surgeons who were anxiously awaiting quality operating facilities. Through surgery, we can resolve problems definitively and give well-rounded solutions to our patients without the need to send them from one place to another in order to heal them.
This new very modern hospital is bringing high-tech equipment, some of which isn’t even in any other hospital in Costa Rica yet.
How will this hospital serve the community?
For me, medicine has a social role that is fundamental, and because of that, we hope to be able to address every need that’s asked of us.
Sadly, the Caja (Costa Rican Social Security System) is going through a difficult moment. Today, private medicine should understand that there are many low- and middle-income people who urgently need a private specialist, because the public system sometimes gives them appointments two years later.
There is intermediary and intensive care units, two operating rooms, recovery rooms, and we are drawing plans and forming alliances for training with surrounding hotels so that patients who don’t live in the area can recover comfortably and safely, supervised by our doctors and nurses.
Medical, dental and aesthetic tourism is also a field we will enter, but in the short term, the most fundamental element for us is that residents will see San Rafael as a hospital for Guanacastecos.
Foreigners and Costa Ricans complain about the difficulties in starting a business here. What has your experience been?
Without question it’s not easy. In terms of bureaucracy and time, it’s very complicated and unpleasant, but you have to be persistent and insistent. You have to do things the correct way, comply with requirements and avoid temptations. ...
As an example, six years ago on this piece of land there wasn’t anything; it was just an empty lot. Today, in this space, many people have jobs and we help heal more than 3,500 patients each month. What’s coming isn’t just a bigger building; there will be new solutions for people. ...
Do you have advice for people who want to start a business or invest in Guanacaste?
Due to particularities of the provincial culture, the Guanacasteco is cautious, and at the beginning people might not accept you. But once they do, they become like a sibling and will help you along.
In Guanacaste, you can’t come here to impose things on the people. You have to involve the community in projects, look for alliances, play fairly and express your ideas without arrogance. ...
We worked hand-in-hand with the people from here, and we’ve grown together as a community.
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